AFC South: Jaguars-Colts 091309

Brackett on blitzing

September, 14, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- Gary Brackett’s a great quote. When surrounded by reporters and camera, you might even call him a bit of a showman.

Monday after he talked with one columnist before the crowd arrived in the Colts locker room, the linebacker fielded the same set of questions with a larger group.

How many times did you blitz against the Jaguars?

Brackett: Ten times, I believe, somewhere in that range.

How much more was that than last year?

Brackett: That’s about 10 more than we did in the past.

He paused for laughter and got compliments for the line succeeding a second time and for his consistently good delivery of it.

“I think last year that wasn’t really our philosophy as far as blitzing,” he said. “We did have some blitzes in last year, more probably run blitzes, a couple pass blitzes that we called but a limited number per game. This year definitely is a big increase over last year.”

Brackett said he got the call four times and while he got in Jacksonville quarterback's David Garrard’s face twice he didn’t land his first full sack since 2005.

“I’ve got to go up top on the quarterback, I forgot he’s got arms and can throw, kind of throw over me,” he said. “It’s the short thing again, coming up to bite me.”

No blitzers will put the status of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis as the team’s top sackers in jeopardy.

And bringing extra rushers doesn’t have to produce sacks so much as it needs to disrupt timing and force uncomfortable decisions.

“All that is good, all that really negates what they can do as far as throwing the ball [down] the field,” Brackett said. “And I think when you get into a situation where a team doesn’t know if you’re blitzing or not, some of their protections have to be called a little bit differently. Before, it was, 'They’re not coming, so we’ve got to worry about the two ends.’ Now you don’t know exactly who’s coming so you kind of have to account for everybody.”

Brackett was sent as a blitzer on the two final plays of the game that mattered, as Garrard threw incomplete under fire on third and fourth down when the Jaguars needed to drive to a field goal to win it. The middle linebacker said such a style qualifies as more the M.O. of new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer.

“At the end of the game, they really needed 30 yards in order to beat us and it happened here last year in that same situation when we were on the field, and we weren’t able to get the job done," Brackett said, recalling a game that ended with a 51-yard Josh Scobee field goal with four seconds left and a 23-21 Jacksonville win. "In that situation, third-down-and-long we went after him, fourth down, it’s kind of one of those things: we get off the field, we know we’ve got a victory.”

Look for linebackers, safeties, the nickel, and corners to all get their blitz chances, then for Coyer to return to the guys who show themselves most effective, Brackett said.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman
The veteran leadership of the Colts' Dwight Freeney made the difference in their 14-12 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- The way things played out on the final, crucial downs of the Colts’ win over the Jaguars was nothing short of the NFL’s natural order.

On Sept. 21, 2008 David Garrard drove the Jaguars to a win with a field-goal drive here at Lucas Oil Stadium. Sunday the Jaguars’ quarterback was positioned for similar heroics. The clock read 1:59. He had a timeout and a first-and-10 at his own 35-yard-line. The following series ensued:
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“It’s kind of what the rules are,” said Freeney of beating rookie Jags' tackle Eugene Monroe on the final play of the game that mattered, helping preserve a 14-12 win. “He’s a rookie. I’m a vet. It just has to go that way.”

In Freeney versus Monroe, Mathis versus Eben Britton and Reggie Wayne versus Derek Cox, things came out as you’d expect. Established, productive and highly paid Indianapolis stars got the better of green first-, second- and third-round Jacksonville draft picks.

Freeney and Mathis were part of a productive pass rush that got only one sack -- from Freeney -- but forced Garrard to make quick throws. The Colts' pass rush rarely allowed for anything to develop downfield, stifling the potential for the sort of big play that could have made the difference for the underdog. Receivers caught only five of Garrard’s 28 throws, for an average of 12.8 yards.

Meanwhile, Cox picked off a Peyton Manning pass into the end zone early in the first quarter intended for Wayne. Cox later recovered a Joseph Addai fumble.

But he said he was tracking Wayne on all but about three plays when the wily veteran lined up in the slot. While not every yard goes against Cox’s record, Wayne was largely unsolvable as Manning looked to him 14 times. They connected on 10 of them for 162 yards and a touchdown.

Still, at the two-minute warning, Jacksonville had a reasonable chance to win the game.

(Read full post)

Manning sick over Gonzalez injury

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning has his fingers crossed about Anthony Gonzalez.
 AP Photo/AJ Mast
 Anthony Gonzalez is helped off the field after injuring his right knee in the first quarter Sunday.

It’s never a good thing when a receiver split wide goes down untouched as Gonzalez did in the first quarter of Indy's 14-12 win over Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The team called it a right knee injury shortly after he was helped off the field and said his return was questionable. He was on the bench briefly with doctors huddled around him, then was never seen again. The team offered no further details about him after the game.

“I’m sick about Gonzalez, whatever his injury is going to be,” Manning said. “Anytime you see a guy go down. I didn’t see it, I actually asked [Jacksonville cornerback Rashean] Mathis what happened and he said, ‘I didn’t even touch him, he went down.’ I got a sick feeling about that. He worked so hard this offseason, I sure hope that it’s not a season-ending injury. I hope he’s back soon. He’s a huge part of our offense.”

Manning said he pushed teammates to move on, but at the same time didn’t want to dishonor or disrespect Gonzalez or forget about what they lost.

Reggie Wayne was fantastic as the lead receiver. Manning joked about the new line in the official NFL stat pack that identifies how many times a receiver is targeted will complicate his life. The number for Wayne was 14 against the Jags. He caught 10 for 162 yards and a touchdown.

The quarterback also liked what he got out of the team’s third and fourth receivers, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, who combined for five catches for 39 yards. Collie is primarily a slot guy, so Garcon will see more action while Gonzalez is out.

“For us to be the kind of team that we want this year, we’re going to need Anthony Gonzalez back so I sure hope he’s able to get back,” Manning said. “Until then, Pierre came in and it’s probably the most I’ve heard him speak in the two years he’s been here. So I guess you have to get him on the field to get him to start speaking.

“I thought he had a good look in his eye out there, he was talking to me, he said, ‘Hey, here’s what 27 [Mathis] is doing, here’s what I can do.’ I like that kind of feedback. Collie, he’s got a good look in his eye. I don’t think anything is overwhelming him out there. So those guys got great experience on opening day. They’re going to be huge until Gonzalez gets back and hopefully that will be soon.”

As far as a person in power commenting on Gonzalez’s condition, here’s all coach Jim Caldwell had to say when asked if he had more info: “I certainly don’t. I do not, not at this time. We’ll get a sense a little bit later on.”

Said Manning when asked if he thought the team could call Marvin Harrison: "Oh, I don't know what personnel is going to do about that. Obviously we're possibly going to have to rely on the tight ends a little bit more. We worked more three-wides in today’s game because we thought that was kind of the best way to attack them. So we'll see what personnel is going to do."

Rapid Reaction: Colts 14, Jaguars 12

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s the scenario most quarterbacks relish. David Garrard’s Jaguars had the ball with 1:59 left at their own 35-yard line with a timeout, needing a field goal to win it. He had big-legged Josh Scobee on his side.

This 14-12 loss doesn’t land on Garrard.

Maurice Jones-Drew dropped a pass and Garrard faced the sort of end-game pressure the Colts are renowned for when they play with a lead. Gary Brackett cut him down as he threw incomplete before a three-man wave came at him to end it with a sack on fourth down -- first Robert Mathis, then Dwight Freeney, then Brackett.

The Colts were the Colts, playing with the confidence of a team that usually finds a way to pull things out.

Reggie Wayne was the target on an early pass from Peyton Manning that was picked off by rookie Derek Cox.

From there Wayne was spectacular in the team’s first game in over a decade without Marvin Harrison and with Anthony Gonzalez sidelined with a knee injury suffered early. Wayne finished with 10 catches for 162 yards and a TD.

In the end, margin of victory doesn’t matter.

The Jags didn’t turn it over, took it away a couple times and ran it with success. In a game between a team picked for the playoffs and a team tabbed for last in the division, it wasn’t enough.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- Some notes from the first half, where Colts lead Jags 7-6.
  • Eugene Monroe has his hands full with Dwight Freeney, whose spin move is as quick as ever. No way to be entirely ready for that. David Garrard has really helped out the rookie tackle a couple of times, but Freeney also has a sack. With Eben Britton at right tackle, the Jaguars are the first team to start rookie tackles in the opener since the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals with Luis Sharp and Tootie Robbins.
  • What a nice start for Jags rookie corner Derek Cox. First half of first game and he had an end zone interception and a fumble recovery.
  • The Colts didn’t change plans once Anthony Gonzalez went down with a right knee injury that looks serious. They had Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon on the field in three-wide. Passing game is a bit out of sync so far. Dallas Clark nearly had them in field goal range on the second-to-last play of the half but couldn’t quite pull in a deep ball.
  • Indy’s run defense doesn’t look to be a whole lot different thus far. Maurice Jones-Drew has had a couple good runs and has eight carries for 50 yards.
  • Defensive tackle Eric Foster made for a nice fullback on a 13-yard run for Joseph Addai.

Jaguars go light at receiver

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Jaguars spent a lot of resources on receivers in the offseason.

Only one of them is playing in the team’s season opener.

Torry Holt is starting opposite holdover Troy Williamson, with Mike Sims-Walker and Nate Hughes also set to play.

Among the inactives: rookies receivers Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard.

That suggests, unsurprisingly, that Jacksonville’s going to run the ball and use Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis in the passing game.

I’m not expecting a lot of empty backfield, four-wide formations. And if a receiver is hurt, the rotation will be thin.

Key matchup in this department: Williamson against Colts rookie corner Jerraud Powers, who gets the start while Marlin Jackson eases back into action working as the nickel.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- On the opening Sunday of the NFL season, a bunch of us will spend time chiming in and answering an occasional question.

You’ll still get blog entries from me during the game that will go out as tweets (@espn_afcsouth) and Facebook status updates (Paul Kuharsky Espn).

Now, from 1 to 7 ET you can also join us as we Cover It Live. Our tweets will show up in there, so it’s one-stop shopping if you're on your computer during the game.

Jaguars-Colts inactives

September, 13, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

INDIANAPOLIS -- Here are the inactives for Jaguars at Colts:


Caldwell: Coyer up, Moore down

September, 11, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

After experimenting with his coordinators during the preseason, Jim Caldwell decided it’s best if defensive coordinator Larry Coyer works from the coaching booth and senior offensive coordinator Tom Moore remains on the sideline.

Sometimes determining a coordinator's spot is a tough call. The vantage point from the booth is great and gives coaches an important idea of how things are playing out and how an opponent is positioning players. But being on the sideline allows a coach to look players in the eye while conveying messages rather than using an intermediary or having a conversation by phone.

“Larry is up there in the box, and Larry functions well from up there,” Caldwell said in his Friday chat with local reporters. “He likes being up there in the box. He’s been there over the years. I know he’s been on the sidelines some, but I’m not certain as a coordinator or not. I know as a coordinator he prefers to be in the box.

"So, during the preseason we wanted to look at different options, so I had Tom in the box, as well, but first game of the regular season, Tom is going to be on the sideline, just so it doesn’t come as a shock and a surprise to you. He’s back where he normally is, and that’s how we think we can best function. We wanted to look at a few things, and that’s what the preseason is for. He’ll be back doing his old thing, like he’s normally done over the years.”

While his coordinators will be in familiar territory, Caldwell’s four preseason games were his first on the sideline since 2000, when his seven-year tenure as head coach ended at Wake Forest.

As an assistant at six colleges before that and in four seasons with the Colts as assistant head coach/quarterbacks and then associate head coach, he was upstairs.

“Besides my time on the sideline as a head coach, I’ve never been on the sideline throughout my entire career,” he said. “I’ve always been in the box. If you ask me just in terms of what I thought about being up there? I thought I had a great view of the game; you can see it all, both sides of the field. Someone who has always been on the sideline probably will have a different take of it. It just depends.”

By the way, the guy Coyer replaced, Ron Meeks, coordinated from the sideline.

Injury news for Colts and Jaguars

September, 11, 2009

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

The final injury report for Jaguars-Colts is out, and it brought no surprises.

If Jerraud Powers starts as expected at cornerback for the Colts in the spot of Marlin Jackson who will only work as the nickel, it’s on merit not because of injury. Tim Jennings who was rested early in the week, participated fully in practice and wasn’t categorized at all in the final injury report that designated injured players as probable, questionable, doubtful or out.

Rookie Fili Moala (knee), who clearly doesn’t factor into plans this week at defensive tackle, is questionable while safety Bob Sanders (knee), tight end Tom Santi (ankle) and defensive back Jamie Silva (abdomen) are out.

For the Jaguars, rookie tight end Zach Miller (knee) remained out of action this week and is out. Defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee) made the report as probable despite his protests. He was limited in practice all week but is expecting to play. Tackle Tra Thomas (back), in line to back up Eugene Monroe, was limited Friday and is also probable.

Posted by’s Paul Kuharsky

Bob Sanders talked to Indianapolis reporters on Wednesday and Jim Caldwell talked a bit about him.

The gist: They’ve got no timetable yet for his return from knee trouble, but they will some projections as they go along. (Surely they have a timetable, just not one they are willing to share yet. That he wasn't left on PUP means he should be back in less than six weeks.)

“I don’t want to get into all of the details, but I just wanted to let everyone know I’m doing fine, my spirits are up," Sanders said. "...I’m excited about the year, it’s starting up, and it’s time to play football.”

That was one of seven times he used the word excited or some derivation of it. Seven times in 388 words. He was impressively on point. He is also, by the way, “encouraged” about how people like Melvin Bullitt step in and play well when others are out.

Me? I'm excited about the prospect of seeing Sanders back on the field.